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In The Hobbit, Gandalf assembles the party of 13 to retake the Misty Mountain and give Erebor back to Thorin. However, along the way, Bilbo and company are captured by goblins and Bilbo meets Golum. There's no indication that anyone or anything actually knew of Golum's existence or location until Bilbo met him.

Yes, Sauron was already beginning his return, even without the one ring, but had Bilbo never found the ring and stolen it from Golum, it never would have returned to the surface. So, by that logic, since Gandalf was so adamant about Bilbo being the dwarves' burglar and basically guilted him into joining them he is responsible for the ring being found. Had Bilbo stayed home, the ring would have stayed hidden with Golum.

So, is Gandalf the person responsible for the events of the third age and Sauron's return to power?

marked as duplicate by Valorum, Kreann, Null, Shevliaskovic, user1027 Dec 2 '14 at 16:11

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    I'll leave it to the experts to answer, but canon is clear that life... err Ring "finds a way", to borrow a phrase from Jurassic Park. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 1 '14 at 0:35
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    Eventually even Gollum would have died and the Ring would have made its way into the hands of another person. – Valorum Dec 1 '14 at 0:35
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    This seem to be less of a question and more of a rant. Who's to say that Bilbo or Déagol aren't equally to blame? – Valorum Dec 1 '14 at 0:36
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    @DVK - They discussed burying it or hiding it at the Council Meeting. If memory serves, the consensus of opinion is that it would eventually emerge even if hidden carefully – Valorum Dec 1 '14 at 0:48
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    @Kevin: Gollum was captured while he was nosing around in or near Mordor. It was during his routine interrogation that Sauron learned of his connection to the Ring, and thus about Bilbo. – Joe L. Dec 2 '14 at 15:53
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No. In fact, it was Sauron's rising that prompted Gandalf to find a way to re-take Erebor and remove Smaug from the possible use by Sauron.

LOTR, Appendix A Annals of the Kings and Rulers:

    But at last there came about by chance a meeting between Gandalf and Thorin that changed all the fortunes of the House of Durin, and led to other and greater ends beside. On a time Thorin, returning west from a journey, stayed at Bree for the night. There Gandalf was also. He was on his way to the Shire, which he had not visited for some twenty years. He was weary, and thought to rest there for a while.
    Among many cares he was troubled in mind by the perilous state of the North; because he knew then already that Sauron was plotting war, and intended, as soon as he felt strong enough, to attack Rivendell. But to resist any attempt from the East to regain the lands of Angmar and the northern passes in the mountains there were now only the Dwarves of the Iron Hills. And beyond them lay the desolation of the Dragon. The Dragon Sauron might use with terrible effect. How then could the end of Smaug be achieved?

If Bilbo had stayed home it's likely that the Ring would have been found by some Orc:

LOTR, Book I, Ch. 2 The Shadow of the Past:

   The Ring was trying to get back to its master. It had slipped from Isildur’s hand and betrayed him; then when a chance came it caught poor Déagol, and he was murdered; and after that Gollum, and it had devoured him. It could make no further use of him: he was too small andmean; and as long as it stayed with him he would never leave his deep pool again. So now, when its master was awake once more and sending out his dark thought from Mirkwood, it abandoned Gollum. Only to be picked up by the most unlikely person imaginable: Bilbo from the Shire!

Sauron was already rising well before Gandalf joined up with Thorin. And the Ring had abandoned Gollum some time before Bilbo found it.

  • Do we know how much time there was before Bilbo arrived it had abandoned Gollum? It doesn't seem likely that Gollum would go very long without noticing its absence... – Nerrolken Dec 2 '14 at 19:02
  • @Nerrolken: It's never stated in the books. Assuming Gollum hunts a couple times a week probably no more than few days. In the timelessness of a dark cave one can easily lose track. – Joe L. Dec 2 '14 at 19:13

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